The Museum Of Broken Relationships

The Museum Of Broken Relationships

By |2016-10-01T20:10:09-04:00October 31st, 2011|Croatia|36 Comments

Museum of Broken Relationships

I’m walking around Zagreb, Croatia, freezing cold, hungry and far from being in my normal travel groove. Nothing seems interesting, I have nobody to talk to and I start to think that this might be one of those days where I should return to my room and just work on my laptop all afternoon.

I make the decision to grab some quick food before heading back to my hotel and I begin to wander down a narrow street that seems to be full of dining and take-away options. But as I pass kebab shops, pizzerias and bakeries, nothing seems too appealing and so I continue my search.

Five minutes later and I’m standing at the base of an outdoor set of stone steps, which I randomly start to climb without hesitation, leaving the street behind and inching my way upward. One hundred and twenty seven steps later I reach the top. Now I’m in the Upper Town of Zagreb and the first thing I notice is that there is almost nobody else around. The neighborhood seems completely empty, with the sound of a car off in the distance the only sign of activity.

Heading along Kamenita Street, and without a map or guidebook, I reach the St. Mark’s Cathedral and the main square. I walk around the Cathedral, nod to a couple of the heavily armed security guards guarding what appear to be government buildings and I then turn left and walk down Cirila I Metoda, a street I chose to explore for no particular reason at all.

At this point, I remember that I had been quite hungry and so I keep my eyes open for a place where I could buy a snack. Further down the road I notice a building on a corner, with lights on, a sign out front and even a couple of people hanging outside the door. I skip my way down to the entrance and read the big sign, which leads me to put my hands on my hips and exclaim, ‘Now that’s interesting!’

I was not standing in front of a restaurant, instead, I was standing in front of a very intriguing museum, the Museum of Broken Relationships, which had been recommended to me by another traveler I had met in Slovenia. And now that I had randomly ended up at it’s very entrance, I had no choice but to enter and see what this place was all about.


Having won the Kenneth Hudson award for the most innovative museum in Europe this year, this museum promises to offer visitors an experience that differs greatly from a typical museum visit.

Museum of Broken Relationships 6

The idea is that, while human beings often celebrate love and relationships, as soon as one of our relationships comes to an end, we are trained to automatically try and cleanse ourselves of every reminder of that relationship in order to heal our emotional suffering and return to a state in which we may seek out a new relationships to enter into. So the founders of the Museum of Broken Relationships began to wonder why we don’t formally recognize and focus on failed relationships as well, instead of trying to make them vanish, especially considering the powerful emotional effect that such relationships tend to have on our lives.

Then, the founders took this concept and created the museum, a museum in which the exhibits are all donations from those who have lived through a broken relationship and one which gives people an opportunity to perform an official farewell to someone, to something, to a time that is no longer. As a result, people can choose to deal with the emotional hardships of a failed relationship by exhibiting whatever it is they once felt the need to hold on to.


First, this is probably one of the smallest museums I’ve ever visited, only occupying five tiny rooms. However, I spent over 2 hours inside, moving slowly from display to display, reading every single story of a broken relationship and the significance of the objects that were donated to the museum.

To give you an idea of how I managed to spend so much time here, let me show you a sample of some of the items that were on display, as well as the stories that went with them. (I’ll show a photo of the object and then write out the accompanying text that was written by the person who donated the item.)

Museum of Broken Relationships 3
“An Under-Knee Prosthesis”
In a Zagreb hospital I met a beautiful, young and ambitious social worker from the Ministry of Defence. Love was born when she helped me get certain materials, which I needed for my under-knee prosthesis, as a war invalid. The prosthesis endured longer than our love. It was made of sturdier material!
Museum of Broken Relationships 1
“A Broad Bean Heater”
There’s a saying in Egypt that broad beans are best served warmed up. Our relationship never got warmed up, but the friendship remained as strong as dried broad beans.
Museum of Broken Relationships 2
“A Honey Bunny”
The bunny was supposed to travel the world but never got farther than Iran. This is not photoshopping, but a real photo of the bunny in a desert near Tehran.
Museum of Broken Relationships 5
“A Hundred Swedish Crowns”
This small bill is the only thing left after a relationship and a trip to Stockholm. He told me: “Keep it, you’re going to use it the next time you come and see me…” But there was no “next time”.

“Air Sickness Bags”
A range of air sickness bags as a memento of a long-distance relationship. One Croatia Airlines, one Lufthansa, one Hapag Lloyd Express and three GermanWings. I think I still have those illustrated safety instructions as well, showing what to do when the airplane begins to fall apart. I have never found any instructions on what to do when a relationship begins to fall apart, but at least I’ve still got these bags.
Museum of Broken Relationships 7
“A Stupid Frisbee”
Description: a stupid Frisbee, bought in a thrift store, was my ex-boyfriend’s brilliant idea – as a second anniversary gift. The moral was obviously that he should be smacked with it in the middle of his face the next time he gets such a fantastic idea. Since the relationship is now preceded by the world “ex,” the Frisbee remains in the museum as a nice memory and expelled negative energy. Feel free to borrow it if you like. PS Darling, should you ever get a ridiculous idea to walk into a cultural institution like a museum for the first time in your life, you will remember me. At least have a good laugh (the only thing you could do on your own).

And so, room to room I went, ever so slowly, not wanting to miss a story, not wanting to skip even one remnant of a relationship that no longer exists. While at first this may seem to be quite a depressing way to spend an afternoon, the effect of my visit to this museum was actually quite the opposite. I felt a sense of connection to others, a sense of understanding, and perhaps even better, a sense of relief that my own failed relationships are just a handful of an infinite number of relationships that all ended up the same way.

So if you’re ever in Zagreb, Croatia, and especially if you find yourself wandering around town wondering why your relationships just never seem to work out, pay a therapeutic visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships. Far from breaking down and crying non-stop for hours, you’ll instead be skipping around the streets in no time at all, happily aware that you are by no means alone.

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  1. 12 of the Worlds Strangest Museums February 28, 2016 at 11:18 am - Reply

    […] Source: Wanderingurl […]

  2. […] that doesn’t praise the Museum of Broken Relationships. You get the point – go see it. But Wandering Earl has the most poetic and touching review of his afternoon spent in this ‘graveyard of love’. For him it was an uplifting […]

  3. Priyank December 9, 2011 at 6:25 am - Reply

    Oh wow this is so interesting! And kinda bizarre to see personal stuff on display, like it’s some kind of visual/performance art. 🙂

  4. […] Next time you’re in Zagreb, Croatia, check out this place: The Musuem of Broken Relationships. Must be interesting right? It’s on my list to check out someday. Read more about it HERE. […]

  5. Micamyx|Senyorita November 30, 2011 at 4:52 am - Reply

    I think museums with personal themes makes the experience a bit more interesting! I’ll surely need to spend the whole day there reading all the unfortunate yet inspiring stories on love and letting go.

  6. […] this museum from a couple of single fellas perspectives, check out these posts on Go See Write and Wandering Earl!   (function() {var s = document.createElement('SCRIPT'), s1 = […]

  7. Alain Wong November 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    Love this SO MUCH. What a great idea for a museum <3

  8. Matthew Cheyne November 14, 2011 at 4:47 am - Reply

    I was a bit late to read this post but I’m glad that I saved it til now. I have heard of the Museum of Broken Relationships before but had no idea that it was located in Croatia.

    Reading your post and reading about the broken relationships really brought home a few Buddhist truths that I have been reading and studying over the last few years. Namely that we all want to be happy and when we are not happy we are in a state of suffering or unsatisfactoriness and we try and do anything we can to get out of that state whether it be through some coping mechanism that we employ or by a rebound relationship to try and help us forget.

    Most importantly it reinforces the fact that we really are one people. No matter what language we speak, no matter what culture we are from, we all want to love and be loved. It’s not just a spiritual need but a psychological one as well.

  9. […] stop, on Wandering Earl, The Museum Of Broken Relationships. This museum is such an eye opener. I like museums. It’s really a good way to get to know the […]

  10. Untemplater November 3, 2011 at 10:48 am - Reply

    I loved this post Earl. Thanks for sharing some of the descriptions of the exhibits. They really made me stop and think and smile too. I had a boyfriend in high school who ended up being more into anything from Polo Ralph Lauren than me. I’m surprised how long it took me to realize how weird he was lol. He gave me a random gift once (not from Polo) in a Polo bag which would be the object I’d put in the museum because it’d make me laugh. Unfortunately I tossed that bag in the trash many many years ago. 🙂 I learned from that relationship to pay attention to the small things and that there really are materialistic people out there! -Sydney

    • Earl November 4, 2011 at 4:38 am - Reply

      Hey Sydney – That item, the Polo bag, would be a perfect addition to the museum, right along with your description of the role it played in your life. Since you tossed it out, I was about to say, well, there will be other things in the future, but actually, I hope that you don’t end up with more reminders of broken relationships 🙂 But if you do, you now know where to turn in order to get rid of those reminders!

  11. Clare Hudson November 1, 2011 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    Amazing- never knew this existed. I will definitely pay it a visit one day. Love the concept. Thanks for posting about it.

    • Earl November 2, 2011 at 3:52 am - Reply

      Hey Clare – This Museum also travels around the world on occasion, setting up exhibits based upon the donations of locals in whichever town or city they happen to be in. So one day you might find this museum in a town near you!

  12. Sarahsomewhere November 1, 2011 at 6:27 am - Reply

    Don’t you love it when random events come together to create a memorable experience? You look back and think, “if I had only stopped at that restaurant, or not walked up those stairs, I never would have had this great experience.”
    I agree, its these kinds of days when you allow yourself to be guided (even though you didn’t know it at the time!) that you experience the coolest things. Glad you had a good day in the end.

    • Earl November 1, 2011 at 10:22 am - Reply

      Hey Sarah – You said it perfectly and those are the days that I love, and remember, most about my travels. All it takes sometimes is a random left turn or climbing a set of stairs or asking a stranger for directions and the outcome of our day is instantly changed for the better.

  13. Amanda October 31, 2011 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    I read about this museum on a blog earlier this year, and thought it sounded fascinating! (Funny, too, that you featured some of the same display items in your post!)

    If I make it to Zagreb next summer, this museum will definitely be on my list.

    • Earl November 1, 2011 at 10:18 am - Reply

      Hey Amanda – That is funny and I had a hard time choosing which ones to put up. And I look forward to hearing about your experience at the museum when you hopefully do make it over to Croatia!

  14. Heather Rae October 31, 2011 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    I think I’ve got a few objects to send to that museum! Good post. 🙂

    • Earl November 1, 2011 at 10:17 am - Reply

      Hey Heather – Perhaps we should start a collection! Although, I’m a little worried that I have enough to fill up an entire museum on my own 🙂

  15. Mark Wiens October 31, 2011 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Man, I especially loved the Frisbee one…I think I’ve made a few very similar mistakes in my life…!

    This is a really interesting idea for a museum and if I’m ever in Zagreb, I’ll be sure to check it out.

    By the way, again nice to hear that you just randomly bumped into it. It’s another example of how these random travel experiences come, even when we are just wandering around.

    • Earl November 1, 2011 at 10:20 am - Reply

      Hey Mark – It really was random as, given my poor memory, had I not stumbled upon it, I would never have remembered that another traveler suggested I visit! And are you trying to say that you were the one who bought that Frisbee???

  16. Stephanie - The Travel Chica October 31, 2011 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    This is so interesting. A great concept perfectly executed. I have never been one to want to completely erase someone and their memory from my life. You can say goodbye and move on knowing you at least learned something and had some great times.

    • Earl November 1, 2011 at 10:15 am - Reply

      Hey Stephanie – I feel the same way. Even if a relationship ends, there is still so much history, so much time spent together and so it seems silly to me to try and forget about all of that completely.

  17. Linda October 31, 2011 at 10:58 am - Reply

    What a brilliant idea – I’m fascinated to know if you paid to get in? – with the recession biting ever deeper it’s so interesting to see how people can make something out of almost nothing these days – and provide a “social service” at the same time! It would be a great concept for a bar too, something on the lines of Planet Hollywood, only for ordinary folk!

    • Earl November 1, 2011 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Hey Linda – It would be a great idea for a bar…hmmm….need a business partner?? And I did pay to get in the museum but it was only 20 kuna I believe which is about $3.50 USD.

  18. Janvi October 31, 2011 at 10:41 am - Reply

    Hi Earl!

    I love all your posts and being an avid traveler, explorer, wanderer in the last two years I can see why you love being on the move. It takes “everyday is different” to another level and the pace can be so exhilarating. Your current blog entry is such a perfect example of how traveling gives us new ways to look inwards. What a cool concept, this!

    A museum chronicling “objects” of previous relationships can indeed be a better therapy than visiting a psychic or confiding in close friends. I wish this idea could be replicated in other parts of the world because I guess broken relationships and the subsequent scars are more universal than anything else in the world. What a way to find closure.

    Cheers to the variety you bring to your blog!!



    • Earl November 1, 2011 at 10:26 am - Reply

      Hey Janvi – I appreciate your comment, especially considering that you’re a fellow wanderer as well! And as I’m sure you’ve already experienced, once you do get in a groove where everyday is different, it becomes difficult to give it up and return home. And this museum actually does travel to other parts of the world, and when it does, it seeks donations from whatever city it happens to be in. So keep your eyes open!

  19. Joyce October 31, 2011 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Too cool!

    Another place to see in my lifetime 🙂 Keep them coming Earl!

    • Earl November 1, 2011 at 10:08 am - Reply

      Hey Joyce – As small as it is, this is surely one of those places that is worth visiting, so I’m happy to know you’d be interested in checking it out as well!

  20. Steve October 31, 2011 at 10:32 am - Reply

    Those stories are so interesting, I can see how you didn’t want to skip any. Looks like a fun place to spend a couple of hours, but weren’t you really hungry by the end?

    • Earl November 1, 2011 at 10:07 am - Reply

      Hey Steve – Haha…I was indeed hungry at the end and so I went into town and ordered two sandwiches, a slice of pizza and some pastries from a bakery!

  21. Lisa @chickybus October 31, 2011 at 10:22 am - Reply

    What a cool museum and unique way of looking at relationships that didn’t work out. I think it’s a great way to re-frame things and to seem in a more positive and even humorous way. Awesome that your experience there had the effect on you that it did, too.

    If I ever visit Zagreb, I’ll be sure to check out the museum!

    • Earl November 1, 2011 at 10:06 am - Reply

      Hey Lisa – I can see how it helps people turn such often-miserable experiences into something a bit more positive. I can’t think of any better way to heal than to donate something to this museum! Although, hopefully I don’t end up in too many more broken relationships 🙂

  22. Juno October 31, 2011 at 10:16 am - Reply

    This is very interesting. I like museums and especially the place where have very intimate exhibits and this museum definitely is intimate for sure! What a great idea.
    It’s very creative. And while I was reading it, it almost feel like similar to what we do. We all travel and write in our blog, but how to assemble and make it into post is a totally different thing.
    Very cool!

    • Earl November 1, 2011 at 10:04 am - Reply

      Hey Juno – You would love this museum! I agree that it is creative and it’s always nice when we find something completely different from the normal stuff during our travels…

      And HAPPY BIRTHDAY by the way!!

      • Juno November 4, 2011 at 2:36 am - Reply

        Thanks Earl! 🙂 I love birthday wishes around the world!

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